The New Douro tasting 2008

Yesterday was the New Douro tasting at the Tate Modern in London. It has been going for a few years now, and it’s a great event. But it could be even better (more on that later).

The focus was on 2008s, which are just baby wines, but it is nice to get an early look at the vintage. My impression is that it is a very good vintage indeed – perhaps as good as 2007, albeit different. It’s a year with freshness and good acidity, and bright tannins. Producers who make more elegant wines are thrilled with it.

I spoke to many producers about how they view recent vintages. 2010 is seen as quite difficult by many, because it’s a high production year.

2009 is turning out much better than people thought when the grapes were coming in. Some really, really like it- one described it as a commercial vintage, though.

2007 is widely regarded as a classic, although one commented that it was a bit hot, with less balance.

I won’t mention specific wines here, but I will comment on how this tasting could be better. I’m not so keen on the focus on the latest vintage. This tasting is the only exposure to top Douro wines for much of the UK trade. And they are seeing the wines at quite an awkward stage, while they are still so young.

Producers should be allowed to bring older wines. I spoke to the organizer afterwards and she said that from next year, producers will be allowed to show a wine from a decade earlier.

That’s too restrictive, and although 10 years seems a neat figure, there needs to be latitude for producers to bring an older wine, but not necessarily from 10 years earlier.

For next year, this would be a 1999. Not many of these producers were making wines in 1999 – Niepoort, Vale Meao, Vale Dona Maria, Crasto…and who else?

It would be much better to have a spread with some 2001s, 2003s and maybe even the odd 2004. Whatever is showing really well now. I hope the organizers don’t become too rigid about this, because it is important to demonstrate that Douro wines can develop nicely.

I also think it would be good to widen the net and include more producers. There are notable omissions, many of whom are making superb wines, and it’s for the good of the Douro to have these other producers included.

3 comments to The New Douro tasting 2008

  • keith prothero

    Could not agree more—–I find at the WOSA tastings that it is a pain to just focus on new vintages—-you guys certainly earn your money tasting all those big oaky primary wines

    Do many other trade organisations allow the producer to show various vintages?

  • I won’t link to it, but I think that Portuguese marketing in general is in a bit of bother – throwing money at supermarkets who basically only sell pink or very cheap wines and not going for a more holistic approach that will build long term prospects.

    I can understand showing a latest vintage if that vintage is considered something special – but otherwise the wines that producers ought to be able to show are a) those that will be the ones available in the UK on release over the coming twelve months and also a single older vintage of their choosing. This could be a wine from a similar type of vintage to give some sort of indication what the wine will do, or something to prove the pedigree of the wine.

    What a tasting like this assumes is that the names on show are big enough to make a clamour to taste the new vintage to be able to pass judgement on it. That would be fine for Pol Roger, Lafite or vintage port, but at this stage the need is to continue to prove the quality of the estates. No one doubts that Niepoort, Vale Meao or Crasto makes great wines – because they have the reputation. But Portugal needs to put the effort into selling what is currently available znd making a noise about what is on shelves now. That way journalists can get excited, enthuse readers and they can then actually go and buy the thing.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on what I’ve posted recently in regard to Portugal, but for me I love the wines, when I get people to taste them, they love them and buy them – but we struggle to maintain a range that continues to sell. There are too many other areas that are performing so well – South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina spring to mind. Portugal could really use getting Touriga the same coverage as Malbec has.

    Keith – lots of young wines at tastings. Burgundy and Bordeaux almost always young wines, although some of the Bordeaux tastings allow 3 vintages. Australia though is whatever people want to show (ie current vintages) as is Chile.

    On another note – are you going to the Austrian Wine Summit Jamie?

  • Tom Bexton

    I can’t think of any logical reasons as to why there are restrictions for what vintages can be shown at wine events. If only 2008 Douro was allowed to be displayed, that doesn’t make any sense to me at all; estates should be allowed the opportunity to show their wines in their prime, whatever the vintage.

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